22 May 2024

Nine Students Win Dean's Award for Service to the School and Society


BOSTON—The leadership teams of the Jewish Students Association (JSA: Amit Botzer, Aliza Ohnouna, Rebecca Sichel, and Daniel Silberwasser) and Middle East and North Africa Club (MENA: Loujaine AlMoallim, Line Hachem, and Abdullah Mahomed), along with Teresa Danso-Danquah, all members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA Class of 2024, as well as Martin Aragoneses, a graduating doctoral student in the field of business economics, have been named recipients of the School’s Dean’s Award.

These coveted and prestigious awards celebrate the extraordinary achievements of graduating students who during their years of study have also made a positive impact on Harvard, Harvard Business School, and/or broader communities through exceptional acts of leadership. Nominations come from the HBS community, and Dean Srikant Datar makes the final selections.

“This year’s Dean’s Award winners—truly remarkable students, all—exemplify the School's mission of making a difference in the world,” said Dean Datar. “At a time of difficulty and divisiveness, globally and here at Harvard, these students displayed extraordinary leadership and resourcefulness to have a meaningful impact on our community. Their focus on making the School more informed and inclusive spurred important dialogue and deepened learning across our campus. They worked individually and together to engage, comfort, unify, and educate their communities and fellow students throughout the year. I am deeply grateful for their partnership."

This year’s recipients will be formally recognized during Commencement Week. Information on their achievements follows:

Jewish Student Association Leadership Team
JSA co-presidents Amit Botzer, Aliza Ohnouna, Rebecca Sichel, and Daniel Silberwasser came together to unite, represent, and support their club members at a time of unprecedented challenge. In the aftermath of October 7, they worked with each other, the faculty, and members of the JSA to bring comfort, understanding, and community to HBS at a crucial time for Jews on campus and around the world. This included town hall gatherings with club members and Jewish faculty, discussions with thought leaders in the Jewish community, and religious gatherings such as ritual prayers and meals. The leadership team supported the Jewish community at HBS while navigating their own personal challenges, and helped increase the entire community’s understanding of Judaism.

Amit Botzer, an Israeli national, supported and spoke on behalf of Israeli students for the JSA and administration amid personal grief and tragedy, ensuring that the Jewish community on campus could gather and feel included. By maintaining a reimbursement program to defray some costs from weekly student Shabbat dinners, he kept a crucial support ritual in place, accessible, and inclusive.

“At times of crisis, communication has an even more important role in every community. People were affected by the global events in many different ways and severities, and there is no better way to heal but to regather and share how we feel,” remarked Botzer.

“Since October 7, media journalists, concerned alumni, and other organizations have reached out about the Jewish students' experience at HBS. While these were genuine and important, I'm proud of our ability to not get distracted and focus our efforts on our club members and the broader Jewish community at HBS.”

Following Commencement, Botzer will be returning to Israel to support the country's recovery through entrepreneurship, social initiatives, and military reserve volunteering.

Aliza Ohnouna served as the organizational backbone for the team. She worked tirelessly to create and publicize events addressing October 7, and to ensure that those unrelated to the conflict continued as vital connections to faith and community.

“At the beginning of the year, we set out to build a strong, close, and active Jewish community at HBS. While I’m sad that so much of that work occurred during a war that has personally affected so many of our friends and loved ones, I’m grateful that I got to witness just how resilient, tough, and warm the Jewish community is amidst violence in Israel and antisemitism on campus. I had the opportunity to work alongside leaders of our peer organizations as well: JLSA (Harvard Law School), Maimonides Society (Harvard Medical School), and MIT Sloan's JSA, that made our community feel even more supported,” said Ohnouna.

“One of the brightest spots for me this year was the privilege of working with this leadership team. The four of us could not be more different, politically, personally, and religiously, and I’m thankful that we felt as comfortable as we did in celebrating, challenging, and befriending each other under hard circumstances. Not every decision we made was popular on campus, but I felt good knowing that the team had my back. Together, we organized a range of religious, social, and political programming that has spawned new traditions we know our successors will perpetuate!”

Ohouna will be working at JPMorgan Chase in New York City following Commencement.

Rebecca Sichel is noted as a source of strength and leadership within the Jewish community, an educator and bridge-builder across communities, and considered by administrators to be one of the best student leaders the School has ever seen. In the weeks after October 7, she and Silberwasser worked with the MENA leadership team to increase dialogue and support for all club members and the entire HBS community. Sichel often hosted small Shabbat dinners, opening her home as a peaceful gathering place for people from all backgrounds.

“Gathering as a community, whether formally in town halls, religiously in a morning prayer service, or informally at shabbat meals was a pivotal way to get the pulse of the community,” commented Sichel. “I am reminded of the African proverb ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I am incredibly grateful to all the people who were ‘together’ with me this year in a myriad of ways; it would have been impossible for me to move through the last year without them.”

“The JSA leadership team itself was a microcosm of the Jewish community at-large: we are very different professionally, religiously, politically, and socially. Yet, we forced ourselves to find common ground in many moments of difficulty. These conversations required trust, assuming best intent and a shared mission. I am grateful for this team that taught me how to have difficult conversations and come out better, both as an individual and a unit, at the end.”

In the fall, Sichel will be moving to New York to pursue a role at a climate/transportation technology startup.

Daniel Silberwasser is considered a leader and bridge-builder both inside and outside of the JSA. Believing that education and understanding play an important role in his and others’ healing process, after October 7, Silberwasser led the JSA’s efforts to organize events focused on the political and historical backdrop to the conflict. His efforts included interviewing a prominent Israeli journalist, leading a panel on combating antisemitism, and working with the leadership team of the MENA club to organize a School-wide panel on the broader geopolitical implications of the war in Gaza. He credits his co-presidents for their support throughout the year. An advocate of individual opinions and the right to be heard, Silberwasser created a communication thread between the JSA and MENA leadership teams, championed a schoolwide Dialogue for Understanding workshop, organized a panel on policy and geopolitics, and worked with Sichel and MENA leadership to maintain an open and respectful relationship.

“In the first weeks after October 7, the leadership team was in constant communication with each other, which helped us plan a lot of events in the immediate aftermath and respond to developments on campus quickly,” said Silberwasser. “We agreed on prioritizing finding space on campus for the community to come together and for everyone to have the opportunity to share their thoughts and experience, which helped us all feel less isolated.”

“There’s an old joke, ‘two Jews, three opinions,’ which definitely rang true in our discussions regarding what kind of events to hold and what messages to communicate to the community this year. Because we trusted that each of us wanted the best for the club and Jewish community, the differences in our views helped us have important and difficult conversations and make better collective decisions for the club. None of us expected or wanted to find ourselves leading during such a tragedy, but I found comfort in our ability to support the Jewish community in a small way during a difficult time.”

In the fall, Silberwasser will be returning to the private equity firm GTCR as a vice president, where he will focus on investments in financial technology and services.

Middle East and North Africa Club Leadership Team
Loujaine AlMoallim, Line Hachem, and Abdullah Mahomed tirelessly supported Middle Eastern and North African students at a polarizing and difficult time. The MENA club created a gathering space for students who were in the minority and often feeling misunderstood, while also providing education and visibility to the broader HBS community.

Loujaine AlMoallim has adeptly transformed significant challenges into platforms of dialogue and understanding. Alongside the MENA leadership team, she ensured that students had spaces to grieve and process and events to create a sense of community and belonging. She was also instrumental in fostering connections across diverse campus groups, enhancing mutual respect and empathy. Working closely with leadership and members from affected communities, she conducted a 'Dialogues for Understanding' workshop. Additionally, she played a pivotal role in ensuring that the club's activities remained robust, reflecting her commitment to maintaining a strong sense of community amid challenges.

“Creating platforms for open conversation has been vital in bridging cultural and emotional divides,” said AlMoallim. “Whether it was addressing misconceptions or discussing sensitive topics, we engaged directly and respectfully. These conversations went beyond resolving issues; they deepened my appreciation for diverse perspectives and underscored the delicate art of empathy in leadership. Such dialogues have shown me that understanding and cooperation are foundational for fostering a resilient and inclusive community. Proactive and empathetic leadership is about maintaining focus and harmony, ensuring that every challenge is met with resolve and a vision for peace and progress.”

After Commencement, AlMoallim will be returning to work in Saudi Arabia.

Line Hachem channeled the energy amongst the MENA community towards productive conversation and dialogue. She worked closely with club members to organize student conversations, expert panels, and a community MyTake (student-run personal storytelling events), which were both educational for the broader HBS community and helped MENA students feel heard, seen, and better understood. When faced with opposing viewpoints within and outside of her community, Hachem consistently responded with a mindset that promoted productive dialogue and fostered empathy—qualities she also brought to bear when working with faculty and administration on taskforces and working groups.

“This year has been a period of reflection on who I want to be, both as an individual and as a leader,” commented Hachem. “The experiences I gained have taught me the importance of empathy, the power of bringing people together in the face of adversity, and, more importantly, the significance of dialogue and understanding.”

“There are different ways to stand up for what you believe in, support those you care for, and drive change. HBS taught me the importance of listening and understanding different perspectives, on top of sharing my own views and values. Having these difficult conversations, as a first step, emerged as my way to drive sustainable change. As I move forward, I am committed to using the lessons I have learned to create positive change and contribute to a fairer world, complementing the efforts made by others.”

Hachem will be returning to McKinsey following Commencement.

Abdullah Mahomed, who also served as the co-president of the Islamic Society, effectively advocated for and supported members of both communities, establishing safe spaces and regular community gatherings. He worked with Operations on two initiatives that have had an immediate and sustaining impact for the Muslim community: two dedicated multifaith meditation rooms for prayer and reflection and increased availability of Halal food options on campus.

“I was driven by a vision to make HBS more inclusive and welcoming for diverse religious and cultural groups,” said Mahomed. “HBS is inherently diverse, yet to me true diversity is more than just representation—it’s about creating an environment where everyone can truly belong and freely practice their beliefs.”

“The events of this past year have brought the community together in ways I had not anticipated. We discovered a robust collective strength and realized that simply being there for each other helped facilitate healing and resilience. Our collective strength also enabled us to respond in productive manners and enhance understanding across campus.”

Mahomed will be joining McKinsey, based in their Middle East office.

Teresa Danso-Danquah

Danso-Danquah has spent their time at HBS leading, advocating for, and supporting three main communities: the African American Student Union (AASU), Disability Advocacy and Affinity Group (DAAG), and PRIDE. They have helped ensure that students with these identities see themselves in Admissions events and outreach and that they find a welcoming home when they arrive on campus. By being intentional about creating space for people to explore their identities, and embracing and sharing their own, Danso-Danquah has shown leadership through example and inspiration.

As co-president of PRIDE, they have spearheaded more socio-economically inclusive events and shared their story at a coming-out MyTake (student-run personal storytelling events). Danso-Danquah helped plan and execute AASU’s annual conference and was co-chair of the Black New Venture Competition, raising $200,000 in non-dilutive capital for early-stage Black founders.

Danso-Danquah considers disability work their North Star, and is particularly proud of their DAAG efforts to simplify accommodation requests and raise awareness of the constellation of students, staff, and faculty with different and diverse abilities.

“The highlight of my time here has been seeing the change of having better processes and additional supportive administrative personnel. It’s strengthened the accommodations process so that students don’t feel alone if a temporary disability comes up or if they have a lifelong disability that requires working with faculty on classroom accommodations,” they said.

Danso-Danquah will be an investment director at Cambridge Associates, aiming to fulfill their future goal of directing capital towards marginalized communities.

“It’s an honor to be nominated for this award as there are so many people who create the fabric of our community and contribute in many different ways, big and small. I hope that I can continue to honor that work, regardless of title or position,” said Danso-Danquah.

Martin Aragoneses

As a macroeconomist, Martin Aragoneses studies the lifecycle of the firm, combining economic theories with confidential data to learn how startup activity and a firm’s age distribution affect an economy in which young firms are more dynamic. This fall he will continue that research in Paris as an assistant professor of finance at INSEAD.

“I’m excited to go back to Europe with everything I’ve learned here—the technical skills but also the detective attitude,” said Aragoneses. “I was born in Spain and wanted to understand why the European economy wasn’t as dynamic as America’s—why weren’t firms growing as fast? I want to figure out the barriers these firms face when they’re young and on their way to reshape the economy. That’s really motivating me at this stage in my career, going at it with the tools and experience I have but also with the passion of discovering new things that might have real impact.”

Aragoneses’s time at HBS has been marked by tragedy. During the pandemic he lost both his advisor and his partner of six years to suicide. Picking himself up to finish his PhD felt at times completely impossible. But with the support of his Harvard community, Aragoneses started to set daily goals: explore a new idea, play a tennis game, cook for a friend. He even picked up running and signed up for the 2023 Boston Marathon to raise funds for Samaritans, an organization that helps suicide loss survivors. As he headed up Heartbreak Hill, his legs wobbling, he looked up and saw a sign in the crowd: "Remember why you run." With his partner Camila and advisor Emmanuel in mind, he made it to the finish line. Those four words have been his mantra throughout recovery, fueling him to continue his research, put himself through the academic job market, and cross the PhD finish line.

Now, heading towards his dream job and with this award, Aragoneses sees a bright future. “These achievements confirm that even facing the most horrendous shocks and circumstances that might make one a pessimist, I am still an optimist, almost radically so,” he said. “At every point, at every challenge, I remember why I run.”


Mark Cautela

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.